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“RNC Starts A Losing Fight Over Pay Equity”: Which Strategic Genius In Reince Priebus’ Office Came Up With This Idea?

When msnbc’s Chris Jansing asked Republican National Committee Press Secretary Kirsten Kukowski in April what policies her party would support to improve pay equity, Kukowski couldn’t think of anything. It was right around this time that the Texas Republican Party blamed women for the pay gap, saying women in the workforce would be better compensated if they became “better negotiators.”

It’s incidents like these that lead to discouraging results for the GOP: “A detailed report commissioned by two major Republican groups – including one backed by Karl Rove – paints a dismal picture for Republicans, concluding female voters view the party as ‘intolerant,’ ‘lacking in compassion’ and ‘stuck in the past.”

But that was last week. This week, as Laura Clawson noted, the RNC has a new message.

Remember the one about the man who killed his parents, then asked for mercy because he’s an orphan? Well, chutzpah has a new definition. On Labor Day, the Republican National Committee tweeted the following claim: “This #LaborDay, the White House & Democrats believe paying women less than men is an acceptable practice.” […]

Staggering. Stunstonishing. Mind-blowing. I mean, if tweeting that graphic means that the RNC is ready to line up every Republican in or running for Congress and seriously press them to talk about equal pay, great. Because so far what we’ve got does not seem to support this statement even a little bit.

It’s hard to even know where to start with a claim this audacious. Does one focus on Republican opposition to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act? Or how about the GOP killing the Paycheck Fairness Act?

Do you highlight the prominent Republican officials who worry about what pay-equity measures might mean for men? Or focus on the prominent Republican officials who see the debate over wage discrimination as “nonsense”? Or maybe remind folks about the prominent Republican officials who are convinced that “most of the barriers” women face in the workplace have already “been lowered”?

But perhaps the toughest question to answer today is, why in the world would the RNC pick this fight today?

It’s easy to assume the Republican National Committee is just poking Democrats with a stick for the sake of getting attention – the party, in other words, is just trolling – but this is the kind of move that undermines the RNC’s own interests.

After all, this election season, Democrats would be absolutely thrilled to have a big, post-Labor Day fight over which party is more committed to pay equity.

Now the RNC wants to start this fight on purpose? Which strategic genius in Reince Priebus’ office came up with this idea?

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, September 2, 2014

September 4, 2014 Posted by | Economic Inequality, Gender Gap, Republican National Committee | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Religious Conversion Therapy”: The Duck Caliphate Of Phil Robertson

Appearing as a guest on Sean Hannity’s Fox News television program Tuesday evening, Duck Dynasty’s patriarch and chief duck caller, Phil Robertson, shared with us his prescription for dealing with the ISIS threat.

“I’m just saying, convert them or kill them.”

On first hearing Robertson’s strategy, my thoughts turned to wondering what religion Phil had in mind for these sick creeps more interested in murder and money than they are in religion.

Would, say, a conversion to Hinduism do the trick for the duckmeister or, being the committed Christian that he is, did Robertson require that the conversion be to his own Christian faith?

My answer would arrive soon enough as Robertson pronounced, “I’d much rather have a Bible study with all of them and show them the error of their ways and point them to Jesus Christ. ”

Well…gee, Phil. I was kind of hoping that if these brutal murderers were going to see the light and move from their perverse and evil behavior to a more peaceful existence filled with good will toward all men, you might point them towards Judaism. You have to admit it would be a far more dramatic conversion and make one heck of a splash given the thousands of years of bad blood between Muslims and Jews in the Middle East.

But then I got to thinking, what if these extremist sickos—and that is all these murderers posing as religious zealots actually are—were to find out that, through the years, there have been extremists in all faiths who have done extraordinary evil in the name of their professed religion?

Do you really imagine, Phil, that they would not gravitate to the extreme interpretations they would create in their newly-found religion in order to get back to what they do best—murder and rape?

What if this year’s brand of terrorist murderers were to discover that Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and so on and so forth, can be—and have been—twisted over the years to form the basis of extremist action where, at the end of the day, innocent people are murdered in the supposed name of those religions?

Would Duck Diver Phil be happier if Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi—the maniacal, self-appointed Caliph of the all-new Islamic State—traded in his black mask and automatic weapon for the flowing robes and torture racks of Torquemada? Would it, somehow, be better if Al-Baghdadi, in the name of his newly adopted Christian religion, proceeded to purge the Middle East of Jews if they refused to convert as was the fashion in the days of Torquemada?

Remember, Phil, a terrorist is a terrorist is a terrorist.

Assuming Mr. Robertson is willing to accept a mass ISIS conversion to Judaism, would he be cool with these whackjobs turning themselves into the Brit HaKanaim (translation: Covenant of Zealots), the radical religious Jewish organization that sought to wipe out secularism in Israel through terrorism designed to impose Jewish religious law in the early days of Israel’s existence?

Again, Phil, a terrorist is a terrorist is a terrorist.

Or maybe Robertson would go for a conversion of the forces of ISIS to Buddhism so they could join up with the Buddhist extremists currently terrorizing minority religions in Sri Lanka and Myanmar.

Once again, Phil….just in case you haven’t gotten it…a terrorist is a terrorist is a terrorist.

Sorry Phil, old pal, but while you may be able to take the religion out of the terrorist via a good old fashioned Bible reading, you just aren’t likely to take the lust for terror out of the terrorist simply by changing his religion. There has always been—and I fear always will be—those in almost every religion who seek to impose their “rightness” on others who disagree through various means, including torture and murder.

 

By: Rick Ungar, Op-Ed Contributor, Forbes, September 3, 2014

September 4, 2014 Posted by | Middle East, Phil Robertson, Religion | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Selfless Libertarian Activist?”: Charles Koch Personally Founded Group Protecting Oil Industry Hand-Outs, Documents Reveal

“Lifestyles of the Rich Environmentalists,” produced by a group called the Institute for Energy Research, is a slick web video campaign designed to lampoon Leonardo DiCaprio and will.i.am as hypocrites for supporting action on climate change. The claim is that wealthy celebrities who oppose industrial-scale pollution supposedly shouldn’t fly in airplanes that use fossil fuels. The group, along with its subsidiary, the American Energy Alliance, churns out a steady stream of related content, from Facebook memes criticizing the Environmental Protection Agency, to commercials demanding approval of new oil projects like the Keystone XL, to a series of television campaign advertisements this year attacking Democratic candidates in West VirginiaColoradoNorth Carolina and Alaska. On Capitol Hill, IER aggressively opposes any effort to repeal tax breaks afforded to the oil and gas industry.

Documents obtained by Republic Report reveal for the first time that the group was actually founded by none other than Charles Koch, the petrochemical, manufacturing, and oil-refining tycoon worth an estimated $52 billion.

IER has no information about its founding members on its website, and only lists a board composed of seemingly independent conservative scholars and businessmen. Earlier reports revealed that IER/AEA has received grants from Koch-funded foundations, and its leadership includes several individuals who have at times worked for Koch or Koch-related interests. But this is the first time it has been revealed that Charles personally founded the organization.

In October of 1984, Charles, then using a Menlo Park, California address, founded a non-profit called the Institute for Humane Studies of Texas. That organization briefly lost its charter in 1989 for failure to pay the Texas state franchise tax. Four years later, incorporation documents reveal, the group rebranded as the Institute for Energy Research, or IER, which later formed a subsidiary called the American Energy Alliance.

IER/AEA’s advocacy contrasts sharply with Charles’ personal brand as a selfless libertarian activist. The industrialist has argued that he is resolutely against special government handouts, such as tax credits or subsidies that benefit one industry over another. “Far from trying to rig the system, I have spent decades opposing cronyism and all political favors, including mandates, subsidies and protective tariffs—even when we benefit from them,” Charles wrote in a column for The Wall Street Journal this year.

But Charles’ group, IER/AEA, has fought to protect special tax breaks that benefit fossil fuel producers. Along with issuing press releases against various federal efforts to eliminate oil and gas industry tax credits, IER/AEA commissioned a study claiming that such tax reforms would have an adverse effect on jobs and on oil production.

Charles and his brother David are personally responsible for founding and funding much of the modern conservative infrastructure. The popular libertarian think tank, the Cato Institute, was in fact first named the Charles Koch Foundation, Inc before rebranding. The largest political organization in America outside the Democratic and Republican parties is Americans for Prosperity, the Tea Party-organizing foundation also founded by the Kochs.

The latest organs in the Koch political network have carefully guarded the sources of their funding and direction. There is the new youth group, Generation Opportunity, along with the new veterans-related campaign organization, Concerned Veterans for America. But IER/AEA’s true origin casts new light on its motivations.
 

By: Lee Fang, Public Report, September 3, 2014

September 4, 2014 Posted by | Environment, Fossil Fuels, Koch Brothers | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Evolution Of Rand Paul”: Pandering To GOP Mega Donors

A week ago today, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal condemning “interventionists,” who are quick to use military force abroad “with little thought to the consequences.” Over the course of his 900-word piece, the Republican senator was dismissive of the “hawkish members of my own party.”

“A more realistic foreign policy would recognize that there are evil people and tyrannical regimes in this world, but also that America cannot police or solve every problem across the globe,” Paul wrote. “Only after recognizing the practical limits of our foreign policy can we pursue policies that are in the best interest of the U.S.”

But a few days later, the Republican senator attended the annual summit of Americans for Prosperity, the Koch brothers’ main political operation, where Rand Paul took a very different line.

Speaking to a ballroom later, some of the loudest applause for Paul came when he quipped: “If the president has no strategy, maybe it’s time for a new president.”

In an emailed comment, however, Paul elaborated by saying: “If I were President, I would call a joint session of Congress. I would lay out the reasoning of why ISIS is a threat to our national security and seek congressional authorization to destroy ISIS militarily.”

Wait, what?

On Wednesday, Paul said he had no use for “interventionists” and the “hawkish members” of his own party who are calling for using force in the Middle East. But just 48 hours later, Paul supports U.S. military intervention abroad to destroy ISIS?

Also keep in mind, less than a month ago, Paul was asked about U.S. airstrikes targeting ISIS targets in Iraq. The senator said he had “mixed feelings” about the offensive. Apparently, those feelings are no longer mixed and Paul is now eager to “destroy ISIS militarily” – says the senator who complained last week about Hillary Clinton being a “war hawk.”

At what point do Rand Paul’s loyal followers start to reconsider whether Rand Paul actually agrees with them?

Sarah Smith recently noted that the Kentucky senator has changed his mind about federal aid to Israel, use of domestic drones, immigration, elements of the Civil Rights Act, Guantanamo Bay, and even accepting donations from lawmakers who voted for TARP.

Now, even the basic elements of his approach to using military force are up for grabs.

I suppose a Paul defender might take heart by assuming the senator doesn’t actually believe these new policy positions; he’s just saying these things to bolster support from centers of power within the Republican Party in advance of a presidential campaign. His genuine beliefs, the argument goes, are the ones he espoused before he started pandering to GOP mega donors.

But if that is the argument, it’s cold comfort. For one thing, once a politician replaces his fundamental beliefs with a more palatable worldview, it’s hard to know which version is the “real” one. For another, the “don’t worry, he’s lying” defense just never seems to resonate with a broad spectrum of voters.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, September 3, 2014

September 4, 2014 Posted by | Foreign Policy, Middle East, Rand Paul | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Continuing Slide Toward Degeneracy”: When Will Ted Cruz Tell His Old Man To Get A Grip?

One of the things that makes U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) fascinating is the lift his career has given to the religio-political stylings of his father, the Rev. Rafael Cruz, director of Purifying Fire Ministeries, a spiritual warfare outfit from suburban Dallas. Now you’d think Cruz the Younger would be sufficiently right-wing to please most conservative palates. But no: he regularly sends the old man out to fire up crowds and say things most Republican orators only hint at. Robert Costa explained their relationship as follows about a year ago:

Cruz has kept his father, a 74-year-old pastor, involved with his political shop, using him not merely as a confidant and stand-in, but as a special envoy. He is Cruz’s preferred introductory speaker, his best messenger with evangelicals, and his favorite on-air sidekick — a presence who softens his edge….

This summer, father and son have also been traveling together throughout the country, speaking to conservatives in Iowa and elsewhere. Their roadshow has enthralled many on the right and startled Cruz’s potential 2016 rivals. No one else in the emerging GOP field has an ally like the charismatic elder Cruz….

There was Rafael Cruz in Des Moines, Iowa, last month, speaking to ministers at the Marriott hotel and collecting business cards in the lobby; a month later, he was in Ames, Iowa, pacing the stage at a conservative summit and drawing cheers for his broadsides against President Obama. His fiery speech at a FreedomWorks event in July drew heavy praise from talk radio.

Rush Limbaugh especially loved how Rafael Cruz compared the president’s “hope and change” message to Fidel Castro’s appeal decades ago. “This guy is knocking it out of the park!” Limbaugh exclaimed.

Conservative leaders agree. Bob Vander Plaats, a top Iowa conservative who hosted the Cruz duo last month, calls Rafael Cruz’s speeches “inspiring” and says the image of a father and son laboring together resonates with values voters. Former senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina, who now runs the Heritage Foundation, is another admirer. He has worked alongside Rafael Cruz this month to rally against Obamacare.

Trouble is, Rafael Cruz has a tendency to say things many of us consider kinda cray-cray. I first really paid attention to him when he spoke at the 2013 Family Leader Summit in Iowa:

He dated the slide towards national degeneracy to the 1963 Supreme Court decision banning school prayer, the “massacre of 55 million babies” to Roe v. Wade, and the introduction of full-on socialism in America to the administration of Jimmy Carter (!), held in abeyance solely by the mobilization of Christians on behalf of Ronald Reagan.

Soon after that David Corn of MoJo got interested in Rafael Cruz and easily dug up some rich examples of the old man espousing up-front Christian Nationalist Dominionism and calling the President of the United States a Marxist determined to exterminate religious belief. Confronted with the cray-cray, Ted Cruz’s office blandly indicated Rafael didn’t speak for his son. And best I can tell, the Ted ‘n’ Rafael tag team road show went on exactly as before.

Now a new video of Rafael Cruz has popped up wherein he tells a conservative audience in Texas about his encounter with an African-American “Democrat” pastor in Bakersfield, California, as an example of the dreadful ignorance of black folks who–believe it or not–don’t understand that “government handouts” have enslaved them; that legalized abortion is a racist genocidal conspiracy aimed at people of color; and that the Republican Party is responsible for all civil rights legislation. The money quote that’s getting picked up here and there comes from Cruz’ characterization of a book by black conservative journalist Jason Riley:

Jason Riley said in an interview, Did you know before we had minimum wage laws black unemployment and white unemployment were the same? If we increase the minimum wage, black unemployment will skyrocket. See, he understands it, but the average black does not.

Now you might think this doesn’t rank among the top ten most offensive things Pastor Cruz says every time he opens his mouth. But there’s something about the effortless and absolutely self-convinced way he says outrageous things that makes it a bit startling the first time you are exposed to his act.

The funny thing is that you’d figure Rand Paul was the potential 2016 candidate with the most significant Daddy Issues. If Rafael Cruz keeps it up, and there’s zero reason to think a zealot like him won’t, Ted Cruz may have to spend more time defending him than he’d like–or have a quiet son-to-father talk followed by some dog-whistle training for the Reverend.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, September 3, 2014

September 4, 2014 Posted by | Conservatives, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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